Learn about Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia

This milestone has been immortalized in the central stained-glass window of the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

In 1678 in the Hudson Valley, Huguenot refugees settled the community that would come to be known as New Paltz. So busy were they clearing land, building houses and trying to patch up relations with the indigenous people with whom they’d recently been at war that they failed to notice a scandalous development that was happening back across the Pond: For the first time in history, a woman was winning her doctoral degree. On June 25, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, scion of a Venetian patrician family, brilliantly defended her dissertation in front of university professors, political dignitaries and common folks. This milestone has been immortalized in the central stained-glass window of the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College. 

On Friday, November 9, Vassar will celebrate the 340th anniversary of Cornaro Piscopia’s achievement in the same library with a lecture and theatrical performance dedicated to her life. Professor Patrizia Bettella of the University of Alberta, an expert on female academicians of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, will give a talk based on her research about Cornaro Piscopia at 5:30 p.m. in the Class of 1951 Reading Room. At 7:30 p.m., the Cornaro Room will host a performance of The Most Learned Woman, an original theater piece in spoken word and music that was developed by Laura Caparrotti, artistic director of the Kairos Italy Theater.  Both events are free and open to the public. To reserve tickets, e-mail boxoffice@vassar.edu or visit https://vassarpresents.tix.com.

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The Most Learned Woman, Friday, Nov. 9, 5:30 p.m. lecture, 7:30 performance, Free (by reservation), Thompson Memorial Library, Vassar College, 124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie, (845) 437-5370, boxoffice@vassar.edu, www.vassar.edu, https://vassarpresents.tix.com